Director Samuthirakani has turned failure into a stepping stone to success, writes s.r. ashok kumar

The success is yet to sink in. It is not easy to put failure behind you

After two debacles (Unnai Saranadainthein and Neranja Manasu), Samuthirakani has finally tasted success with Nadodigal. “The film is a runaway hit, but it is yet to sink in,” he says. An associate of K. Balachander and Ameer, he has returned to filmmaking after five years, a period marked by perseverance and hard work. He talks about his experiences and future projects. Excerpts from an interview.

How was the Nadodigal experience like?

Before Nadodigal’s release, I was tense and worried about the audience reaction and the box office result. Now that it has become a success, I am happy, but anxious too. Can I live up to the expectations? And, I want my next film to be as different and novel as Nadodigal. It has to be a film with a message, and with an original screenplay.

So, have you started working on your next film?

My next film is also about youth and I have started working on the screenplay. It will have Sashi Kumar playing lead.

Meanwhile, I am remaking Nadodigal in Telugu with Ravi Teja, Allari Naresh, Navdeep, and Lawrence; a Kannada remake with Puneet Rajkumar is next on the agenda, and the Hindi version may star Dev Patel and Shahid Kapoor.

After this, I may act in a film directed by Sashi Kumar. This will be followed by a film I will direct for his Company Productions, in which he plays hero.

How has your journey in tinseltown been?

I’ve gained a lot of experience. After Unnai Saranadainthein, I wanted to make Nadodigal.

I went to various companies, but no one was even willing to listen to the storyline. At that time, G.J. Productions’ Gnanavelu, who had seen Unnai… offered me an advance to make a film. Sadly, no hero was willing to do Nadodigal. One day, Gnanavelu told me about Neranja Manasu with Vijayakanth in the lead. The story, screenplay and dialogue were ready, and all I had to do was direct it.

I gave my 100 per cent to the film but it did not do well. And, I had to shoulder all the blame.

My career was at the crossroads. My wife suggested that I work with another director, and so, I approached Ameer. He roped me for Paruthiveeran and that was a great learning experience. My confidence returned, and I have to thank Ameer for that.

You also made a foray into the small screen?

After Paruthiveeran, I worked as K. Balachandar’s associate for Poi. Then, Radhika Sarathkumar asked me to direct Radaan’s Thangavettai, Selvi and Arasi.

How did acting happen?

Sashi Kumar offered me a role in Subramaniyapuram. All he wanted me to do was grow my hair. After that film, I began to concentrate on the script of Nadodigal.

Then began the search for a producer. Sashi Kumar liked the script and offered to produce it, but I wanted him to act instead. I then met S. Michael Rayappan, who liked the storyline; things fell into place.

In fact, the role of Pandi (essayed by Bharani) in Nadodigal was tailor-made for me, but I wanted to focus on direction.

How do you feel after Nadodigal?

The success is yet to sink in. It is not easy to put failure behind you. Actually, I don’t think I am singularly responsible for the film’s success; my cameraman, music and art director and editor did a great job. It is because of good technicians and actors that the film turned out the way it did.

My guru, K. Balachander used to say: “Do not try to cheat the audience. Narrate the story as you would to a child.” That is what I did, and it worked.

Do you have plans of turning Nadodigal’s script into a book?

Actually, not just Nadodigal; even the scripts of Subramaniyapuram and Pasanga are to be turned into books.

The right choice!

In Nadodigal, the role of Sashi Kumar’s sister was to be played by a popular actress. After the first day’s shooting, she wanted to opt out, citing communication problems with director Samuthirakani, who could not speak English fluently.

An upset Samuthirakani decided to hand over the role to a physically challenged actor. Abinaya, who ultimately played Pavithra, is speech and hearing impaired, and her performance has come in for praise.

Abinaya was so happy for the opportunity that she wrote on a piece of paper, ‘You are God’.